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Gardening Question of the Day

I dusted my lawn with peat moss to help build the soil. Now I have lots of mushrooms coming up all over. How can I get rid of them?

If the peat moss was a packaged product harvested from the peat bogs of Canada, it is unlikely that it was the cause of the mushrooms. There is a possibility that adding the peat created good sprouting conditions for the mushroom spores that are commonly present everywhere. To begin growing, a colony of the mushrooms must have decomposing matter available, That is usually dead roots, but perhaps in your case, the peat moss gave just enough decomposing matter to encourage the mushrooms. To get rid of mushrooms, rake or mow. Core aerate to loosen up the compacted soil and you will get more air into the soil structure. Eventually the peat moss will break down and the mushroom colony will cease production. Too bad they are not shitake, right?

Last 7 Days

    Our lawn is being run over by ground ivy. How can we get rid of it?

    Ground ivy, also called creeping charlie, is a perennial broadleaf weed that lights up the horticulture hotlines all over the country in the spring. Interesting enough, the best time to apply a control for it is when you apply your fall lawn fertilizer. Look for a weed-and-feed product that contains prodiamine. The herbicide will prevent the ground ivy seeds from sprouting, and it will kill any tiny plants that have already started growing. Consider another possibility - hand-pulling. Ground ivy is completely edible and was one of the "potherbs" harvested in early spring when little else was available. It contains Vitamin C.

    What makes a Kirby cucumber burpless?

    Kirby cucumbers, like other greenhouse cucumbers, are milder than garden grown slicing or pickling cucumbers. As a result, to some people they seem to be easier to digest, resulting in less burping. The greenhouse cucumbers now known as "Kirby-type" were developed to produce fruit parthenogenically, that is, without pollination of the flowers. Thus, Kirby-type would produce fruit in a greenhouse. The Kirby's have no seeds, a very tender skin, and a distinctive long, slender shape. The selection process that resulted in the seedless, thin-skinned cucumbers also selected out some of the compounds that produced the digestion problems. Nowadays, the easy-to-digest qualities of the Kirby-type cucumbers have been re-selected by plant breeders. Home gardeners can choose from a number of seed sources for burpless cucumbers. Look for varieties that are long and slender with solid dark green skins.

    Please tell me about ashes from a wood-burning fireplace. How much can I use in the garden? Are they good for blueberry bushes and asparagus?

    Wood ashes are good for the garden because they contain potash and lime. Apply them to the soil in the spring or fall, 4 to 6 pounds per 100 square feet. However, fresh wood ashes will form lye when first applied, so do not use them on plants in active growth. It is best to apply ashes before planting and see that they are thoroughly mixed into the soil. They are good for most plants, especially root crops and fruit trees. Wood ashes should never be used on acid-loving plants like blueberry bushes.

    What can you tell me about the dried orange flowers called Chinese lanterns?

    Otherwise known as ground cherry or the husk tomato, and related to the tomatillo, Chinese Lanterns Physalis alkekengi or P. franchetii) are a spreading perennial sometimes found along roadsides and in fields. Their distinctive seed pods, the "lanterns" that dry so decoratively, encase small seeds. Tomatillos, the small green tomatoes with papery husks, used in green salsas, are similar. Both the tomatillo and Chinese Lanterns thrive in New England, and will self-seed, sending out volunteer plants beyond where you might wish them. Chinese Lanterns, especially, grow in virtually any soil and can become more dominant than you might care for, so be careful where you choose to plant them.

    Can you suggest some suet recipes, for this winter's birds?

    You can use almost any seed or grain, mixed with bacon fat, lard, or peanut butter. A basic suet combines equal parts of bacon fat and assorted birdseed. Put it in a tuna or cat food can to chill (or freeze) until it's hard enough to hold its shape, then release it into a wire suet cage or sturdy mesh bag. For a fancier suet, add peanut butter to the mix. You can also bind cornmeal or oatmeal with straight peanut butter and spread it into holes drilled in a post or log. Birds also like dried fruits, so consider adding raisins, currants, apricots, or citron. Most birds also like cornmeal or cracked corn, so consider making them their own cornbread, when you're baking one for yourself. For the birds, skip the eggs, milk, or sweeteners. Instead, use 3 cups of cornmeal with a 1/2 cup of bacon fat or lard. Add 2 teaspoons of baking powder (just to give it some height), and then add water until you get the right consistency -- about 3 cups, more or less. After baking, hang it in a mesh bag or suet cage, or crumble it into a tray feeder.

    I dug up a raised garden bed that had oriental and Asiatic lily bulbs and bearded iris growing there for three years. Can I use this bed for vegetables now?

    There won't be a negative residual effect in the soil from these toxic plants. Unlike the chemical substance secreted by walnuts (juglans species), the compounds in the rhizomes and bulbs of iris and lilies do not leak into the soil around the plants. Enjoy your vegetable garden - and remember that foliage of tomato and potato plants are also poisonous.

    What is xeriscaping?

    It is a type of landscape that uses plants with low water needs. It is a method most commonly used in areas where water shortages are common. Drought-resistant plants and low maintenance grasses, those requiring water only every 2 to 3 weeks, are used, in addition to caretaking with drip irrigation, soil improvements, and heavy mulching. Anything that allows for better water absorption and retention is part of the exeriscape technique. The term comes from the Greek word xeros, meaning dry.

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